Three Rivers City Commission holding special meeting tonight, expected to discuss water rate increase

The Three Rivers City Commission will be holding a special meeting tonight via Zoom at 6 p.m. Commissioners are expected to hold a public hearing to discuss a water-related infrastructure improvements grant, as well as an update to the city’s user fee ordinance.

Among those user fees will be proposed increases to both city water and sewer rates beginning next fiscal year. The increases are a result of unfunded mandates from the state related to the replacement of lead water lines and water treatment, as well as local infrastructure projects slated for the next couple of years, according to Mayor Tom Lowry.

In an interview with Watershed Voice last week, Lowry said the city estimates Three Rivers has approximately 1,000 unidentified lead service lines, with the city expected to remove 50 lines annually over the next 20 years with each line removal costing about $10,000 for a grand total of $500,000 every year until 2040. Three Rivers will use grant money to pay a third party company to “come in and find all of the lead lines,” but the removal of all those pipes will likely fall on the shoulders of its citizens.

Lowry expressed frustration with the state legislature who he blames for the predicament Three Rivers finds itself in. “So if you (remove 50 lines a year), that’s $10 million that we have to get out of the citizens because the low tax people at the state (level) are now taxing ourselves to pay for what needs to be done. Forget party name for a second, it is the people who don’t want to pay taxes, and they know when they get to Lansing that this is just an unfair cost. The state government exists in part to do what the local governments can’t, and this qualifies.”

Tonight’s meeting will include an opportunity for citizens to speak to the commission about these proposed changes. Folks interested in attending the meeting can do so in the following ways:

Alek Haak-Frost is executive editor of Watershed Voice.